My new roommate Ryan is moving in today, so I had to get a key made.  I've also been wanting to find a cheap tailor in my neighborhood. Two birds, one stone. I went downstairs this afternoon, bike in tow, and attempted to ask the security guards for a recommendation in a language that vaguely resembled Chinese.  There was another older guy -- a 'civilian' -- in the little guard house hanging out with them.  He let me flounder for a little bit and then stood up and said in perfect English, "What do you need?"  So I told him.  He said, "Follow me on your bike; mine is right here."

So, we headed to the little corner down the road and he helped me get a key made, convincing the locksmith to charge me the regular price, sans "foreigner tax."  Next, he translated for me as I got measured at the neighborhood tailor stand.  In between, we chatted a bit.  Frank was born in China, lived in Queens for 18 years, and has retired back home to Shanghai.  He lives in my complex at 1235 W. Yan'an Rd.

Every foreigner living in China understands the term "China Day", as in "Man, I had the worst China Day today."  Living here can be frustrating in many ways.  From time to time, they all join forces on a single day to create a "China Day."

But there are other days, like today, when someone or something turns the tables and more than makes up for your last "China Day".

Thanks, Frank.


As I prepare to move to Shanghai, I've started meeting with a language tutor here in Hong Kong.  Being able to communicate in Chinese will be much more necessary in Shanghai than it has been in Hong Kong.  I'm trying to cover some basics now, and when I move to Shanghai, I'll start a month-long intensive course right away.  After this initial dive into the language, I'll continue with part-time classes. Learning Chinese will be a big part of my life this year, so I thought I'd start sharing little tidbits of my learning with you from time to time.

There are hundreds of regional dialects within China, and many of these are mutually unintelligible.  However, people from all over the country have a shared language: Mandarin.  In Chinese, this language is referred to as 普通话 or "putonghua" (literally "common speech").

There are a lot of words and phrases in Mandarin Chinese that have really interesting, unexpected, or funny literal translations.  Here are just a couple examples I learned this week:

  • 左右 "zuo you" (literally "left right") = about / approximately
  • 加油 "jia you" (literally "add oil") =  an expression of encouragement (sports fans yell this a lot)